Walking your dog is one of the many pleasures that come with sharing your life with a pet.
Both of you enjoy the fresh air and exercise, but a loose dog can transform this relaxing activity into an emergency.
Off-leash dog attacks happen when dog walkers encounter stray dogs, dogs that have gotten loose from yards or houses, or dogs that have pulled free of their owners’ leashes.
You can prepare yourself for this scenario.
With the right knowledge and strategies, you could avoid problems and be ready to take swift action if things go badly.
- Is It Okay to Let a Dog That You Are Not Familiar With Meet the Dog You Are Walking?
- Learn How to Judge the Body Language of an Off-Leash Dog
- How to Prepare for an Encounter with an Off-Leash Dog
- What to Do If a Friendly Off-Leash Dog Approaches Your Dog
- What to Do If an Aggressive Dog Approaches You
- Should I Pick Up My Small Dog When Threatened by an Aggressive Dog?
- Educate Yourself and Be Ready for an Emergency
Is It Okay to Let a Dog That You Are Not Familiar With Meet the Dog You Are Walking?
The short answer to this question is that the encounter will probably not result in anything bad happening, but you should still try to avoid it.
Letting the dog approach and engage your dog may only result in some sniffing and wagging.
Your dog might also gain more confidence around other dogs after a pleasant social interaction.
These positive outcomes, however, only arise during a best-case scenario. Contact with a strange dog could expose your dog to canine diseases because you have no way to know the other dog’s vaccination history.
Furthermore, the dogs might snarl, snap, or even fight if either one of them turns aggressive.
A strange dog might be confronting you because it wants to defend territory. Your dog might get scared and snap in self-defense or feel the need to defend you.
To decide what to do if an off-leash dog approaches, you need to understand leash reactivity and dog body language.
What Is Dog Leash Reactivity?
The leash limits your dog’s ability to navigate a social encounter with a strange dog properly. When two dogs are off-leash, they will circle each other.
When your dog is on a leash and the other is loose, your dog lacks freedom of movement.
This may trigger fear and anxiety, which could cause your dog to initiate an attack.
Alternatively, the strange dog might sense your dog’s vulnerability or misinterpret its limited movement and attack.
Leashes stress out some dogs more than others during dog interactions. You need to be aware of how much this affects your dog.
When approached by a loose dog, you should assume your dog might become nervous.
What To Do When An Off-Leash Dog Approaches When You’re Walking Your Dog
Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to prepare for an encounter with an off-leash dog and how to handle the situation when it happens.
Learn How to Judge the Body Language of an Off-Leash Dog
You can gain insight into the intentions of a loose dog when you understand dog body language.
This knowledge will help you judge how your dog is responding to the situation as well.
Signs of dog-friendliness:
Signs of dog aggressiveness:
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How to Prepare for an Encounter with an Off-Leash Dog
As a pet parent, you have a responsibility to educate yourself about potential threats and prevent them if possible.
Before leaving on your walk, you should:
Situational awareness is an important self-defense technique for you whether you’re walking a dog or not.
To detect potential threats as soon as possible, you should scan and evaluate your surroundings regularly.
This could give you a chance to spot a loose dog at a distance, giving you time to change direction and elude the problem.
What to Do If a Friendly Off-Leash Dog Approaches Your Dog
If you see a dog approaching that appears to be friendly, you still need to be prepared. Here are some things to consider:
When the off-leash dog is relatively friendly, your distractions and calm departure should prevent a confrontation.
The owner of the loose dog might even show up while you’re trying to leave. In that case, ask the person to get the dog under control.
If you repeatedly see the same dog wandering your neighborhood, you may want to track down the owner.
You could inform the pet parent that the dog is a concern and needs to be secured better in its yard.
If you can’t find the owner of a loose dog, you can contact your local animal control authorities.
What to Do If an Aggressive Dog Approaches You
In this worst-case scenario, you could hear barking and snarling or see a dog approaching swiftly in a stalking pose, which means trouble.
Unfortunately, these techniques to avoid an altercation with an aggressive dog might not work.
If a dog fight erupts:
Should I Pick Up My Small Dog When Threatened by an Aggressive Dog?
Generally, you should not pick up your small dog. This could cause the attacking dog to lunge at you and injure you.
Holding your dog gives the aggressive dog a single target and undermines your ability to defend yourself.
Kicking the aggressive dog will usually distract it from your dog and may provide time for the dog’s owner to show up and catch the loose dog.
However, if you’re attacked by multiple dogs, then you might have to pick up your small dog to save its life.
Educate Yourself and Be Ready for an Emergency
Although you may never experience the horror of an off-leash dog attack, you’re almost certain to encounter an unsupervised dog eventually while walking your dog.
As with most things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Once you know what to do if an off-leash dog approaches, you’ll avoid panic and respond strategically in a bad situation.
For the sake of your dog’s safety, work on obedience training and have a defense plan in place before you leave the house.
Your forethought could spare your dog a traumatic episode and injury.